comment on audiobook pricing - just tossing this one out there..

Discussion in 'iOS Apps' started by th0rn, Dec 7, 2008.

  1. th0rn macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2008
    does anyone else feel like audiobook pricing is a little out of whack? i don't think they should be free, but dang. production costs cannot possibly be anything like what they would be for a two-hour feature-length motion picture. and i personally would be unlikely to listen to the same book more than once. except maybe harry potter. but i can repeatedly get that on cd from the library.

    anyone else out there thinking similar thoughts? if we're buying hard copy, as opposed to 'hands free', we're paying for actual paper, glue, cloth, printing, shipping of a weighty object, warehouse space, etc. not sure what's up with audio version pricing. i'd like to see the purchase price come into line somewhere around the price of an album or a feature film. like around the price of a paperback. i don't consider the audio version to be anything like an equivalent to the clothbound bookshelf variety. and, this said, if pricing on the audiobook were more like that of a standard airport paperback edition, i'd be more likely to want *both* the ipod audiobook *and* a print copy for my bookshelf.

    another acceptable possibility might be a 'netflix'-type rental model, where one could 'always have' like two titles loaded at any given time, but keep them for as long as desired, and make loading a new title require that one title be deleted. in case one goes through a long period of not having time or serenity to listen, but is still into the book.

    i recognize that sophisticated sound engineering may be involved, depending, and that a book takes a paid actor hours and hours to read aloud. i just think circulation and income for publishers/copyright holders would increase if more individuals were paying less per title. if i'm going to pay $25 or more for a book, i'll buy hard copy, because i can bookmark, annotate, etc. -- and it will never become obsolete as software changes.

    i just want something talking to me while i'm knitting. i don't even need the newest titles, that aren't out yet in paperback. unless itunes audiobooks come down in price (i have to confess that i also feel that many e-book versions for, say, the amazon kindle, are also priced too high), i'll have to stick with free podcasts while on the go, and just listen at home to cd audiobooks from the library.

    but the audiobook desire is there. lest anyone @corporate interpret my not buying them to mean that i'm not interested.
  2. robanga macrumors 68000


    Aug 25, 2007
    #2 is a fairly cost competitive way to get audio books, but then again you do have to make the monthly commitment and listen to your two books, or whatever your plan calls for.

    I do agree that the price should be less, considerably less than a hardcover at least.

    I've often wondered about ripping CD books from the library. It seems a fair use model for as long as you delete them when you turn the CD back in.
  3. th0rn thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2008
    i wouldn't rip anything i didn't own, just on principle. my cd's are treated as my archival copies, and i don't even listen to the cd's themselves; so i do rip those.

    i'll take a look at audible. i've only had my ipod for like 3 weeks, so haven't done all the background on the possibilities. i also wonder about librivox, which *is* free -- that's a collection of books out of copyright, read by volunteers.

    i wish someone would talk to the publishing industry, too...
  4. kfordham281 macrumors 6502

    Dec 4, 2007
    Readers (voice talent)
    Authors Managers (press contacts, book signings, etc)

    There's a lot of people with their hand out....
  5. teflon macrumors 6502a


    May 28, 2007
    The publishing industry is kind of like the film and music industry. They are trying to hang on desperately to physical copies instead of digital ones. They are losing money, so they don't want to encourage more people to go digital. Plus, they justify the high prices as compensation to their losses in the physical copy market. However, audio books are still in the minority and do not sell nearly as many as other formats, which can contribute to its high price.
    I agree the price should be much, much lower, even lower than a feature film. Feature films have special affects, directors, writers, extras, crew, technical crew, stunt doubles, actors, sets, costumes among many other things. People who design the sets, costumes and lights, people who make/operate them, they all need to get paid. Famous movie stars and directors gets paid millions per film. However, the actors who read audio books do not get paid anywhere near as much. Acting the profession itself is not a high paying profession unless you make it big. The actors who read books are more likely to be struggling actors who have trouble getting a part and making ends meet every month than Cameron Diaz.
    On the positive side, I think the prices will come down dramatically in the next few years, as more and more books go digital.
  6. th0rn thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2008
    i am relieved that i'm not the only one who's noticed this wacky discrepancy. and i seriously hope the prices drop. but i fear that if publishing doesn't get its business model figured out, it will lose against the other hands-free media. entirely.

    basically, the publishing industry is charging lots of money because they want to. but the high price isn't making them a lot of money, because not that many people feel that a single read is worth the high asking price.

    clearly, in conventional publishing the unit cost goes down -- to a point -- as the number that can be printed & sold increases. but with downloads, there is no setup charge or labor & materials costs for a second or third 'printing'. so basically, it shouldn't matter to them whether they sell one download at $40, or 8 downloads at $5 apiece. in point of fact, if the price dropped to $5, they'd probably sell 20 downloads, and take in $100. when that happens -- be it 8 downloads or 20, they've also gained sets of ears that might buy more audiobooks. and with no difference to the up-front cost of publishing. as kfordham281 rightly notes, there are definitely production costs needing to be recovered. how much of the 'cover' price would go to royalties/production and how much would be profit would have to be figured out and possibly adjusted -- no idea how it's currently structured. but their model as it stands is pretty flawed. they should want people to get into the swing of listening to audiobooks.

    people in need of hands-free entertainment are not competing with print. such people are varnishing a bookcase, driving across the country, making pasta from scratch, or changing the head-gasket on their car. they can choose between tv, a movie, music, and an audiobook. a print book isn't even on the list.

    so i guess i'd suggest to publishers that an audiobook isn't exactly 'digital' in the same way as an e-book. audiobooks have had a seriously adverse affect on the learning of braille by the visually impaired, for example. the effect on the intellect of not learning braille aside, that alone results in market share gain for publishers. because they can't even *sell* hardcopy to the visually impaired. but lots of sighted people like myself also enjoy audiobooks while roadtripping or whatever -- which is why i like the term 'hands-free' -- and we'd rather not have to pay $25-$60 for the privilege. yes, it's many hours of listening; but it's generally zero hours of re-listening (except harry potter).

    i guess i'd kind of like it if apple were to exert some pressure on publishers. i can't imagine that audiobook downloads are exactly flying out of the itunes store. maybe i'm totally wrong. but i'm a librarian, so this is not an uneducated guess. have to take a look at publishers weekly to see if they discuss any sales figures.

    obviously, we have no control over this. it just hurts to see a venerable industry let an entirely cool opportunity slip through its fingers. especially since it ultimately hurts the livelihoods of the authors we love.
  7. teflon macrumors 6502a


    May 28, 2007
    To be honest, IMO the publishing industry isn't to much different from the music industry. The musicians are not the one who gets the most of the profits from CD sales, just like the authors are not the ones who gets the most of the profits from book sales. Unless you're JK Rowling, 15% of the net gain from books is quite a good deal in many segments of the publishing industry. They (music, movie, publishing) all have to change at some point, but they're just desperately hanging on. It's like how in iTunes a complete season of one TV show costs the same as its DVD version, but it's in lower quality, has no manufacturing, storage, art design or transportation fees and no bonus features. Sooner or later, any sort of physical media market will collapse, and the industries will just have to deal with it and adjust, or collapse with it.
  8. stiphone macrumors regular

    Mar 15, 2008
    This is precisely why i do not buy audiobooks. I'll rather get the physical books unless of course the audiobooks come down in prices. I might consider then.
  9. teflon macrumors 6502a


    May 28, 2007
    Actually, I predict that in the future, publishers would be forgone all together. While some people argue that record companies would survive because proper equipment for recording is expensive, it is quite different for writing. All you really need is a laptop. You can either edit it yourself, or give it to an editor to edit and share the profit with the editor. You can make it into an e-book or even audio book by yourself, put it online, and take all/most of the profits instead of giving it to the publishers. No need for an agent anymore either this way. While movies/music do get some promotion, do books really get that much promotion, unless the author is really famous? At that point, you have the money to advertise your new book anyway.
  10. th0rn thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2008
    at heart, you are right. the problem is that because so little infrastructure is required to produce a text, there are huge amounts of material 'out there', even now. an absolutely bogglingly large number of people write books of all kinds. even in today's world reader/end-users *and* critics who write for the major media have a huge number of texts to winnow down, just to get to the subset that they might have the physical capability of reading. i wonder what would happen if the agent/publisher funnel really were to disappear. the funnel is flawed, but it does seem to make things more manageable for both reviewers and readers. i picture a world in which i apply librarian nancy pearl's approach -- if it doesn't grab me after 'n' pages (is it 40?), i put it down. so i read 40 pages of this, 40 pages of that; 40 pages, 40 pages -- until i've read 2000 pages and still haven't identified a book i feel compelled to finish.

    i finally read 'infinite jest' last summer. would i have even found it, had it not been so touted and reviewed and discussed? and if i'd found it, would i have finished it? i seriously wonder how my own reading behavior would change in that new world -- and whether it would be to the benefit, or to the detriment of my poor intellect. today's system of publishing did evolve over many many years. now we are somewhat talking about going back to the days immediately post-gutenberg, when there was no system and the only 'sure thing' reading-wise, was scripture!

    most interesting to ponder.
  11. teflon macrumors 6502a


    May 28, 2007
    I think books are going to be more and more integrated with other media. There could be a Myspace style social networking website, but instead of music, it would be books. There would be categories, and then on each author's site there could be excerpts/summaries, readers reviews and ratings etc. I think very popular books or books that pushes the boundary would get noticed by reviewers anyway because of their public response. Famous authours would have more money to put commercials in TV or billboards and whatnots. There may be book review sites like Rotten Tomatoes. Authours can push their books by going to talk shows, local radio stations etc.
  12. th0rn thread starter macrumors newbie

    Dec 7, 2008
    We're getting there, I think. If you haven't heard of these, Goodreads is an excellent such site. So's Librarything. The former tracks what you have read and what you want to read; and you can note the format by creating a label if you want. Librarything is for one's personal hardcopy inventory. (I once created a free test account with the username 'incaseoffire'. That was how I learned that passwords for free accounts are not recoverable if forgotten...) The next step will be for these sites to actually start providing content. Lots to work out with copyright, though.

    I'd settle for more affordable audiobooks for my ipod touch, though, for now...
  13. Michael CM1 macrumors 603

    Feb 4, 2008
    I think they main reason they're so expensive is because actual book sales would plummet if audiobooks were as cheap as they theoretically should be. It would be nice if books would start to couple free audio copies kinda like movie studios are now doing.
  14. DukeofAnkh macrumors regular

    Oct 5, 2007
    Writing is less subjective than music. The main purpose of publishers (and agents) is to filter out all the crap. There are plenty of ways to get your book published atm without going through a traditional publisher., for example, iuniverse, there are plenty. However, Lulu is filled with awful crap that most people are not going to bother wading through to get to the one or two gems hidden in the dung heap. The idealism of circumventing the publishing houses is all well and good, but practically it's not going to work. Publishing houses ARE going to have to change, I agree with that, but they're not going to disappear any time soon. One thing you know when you go buy a book from Harper Collins or Random House is that, while it might not be the best book ever written, it is going to uphold certain standards of grammar and spelling.

    Not to mention the fact that if an author has to promote and market his own book, where is he going to find the time to write the next one? Marketing is a full time job by itself, so is agenting. Given that most authors don't quit their day job as soon as their first book is published, where exactly are they supposed to find the time to do everything that publishing houses currently do?

    I think a good step for publishing houses to easily take atm, is to set up a system where if you buy the print book, you get the ebook for free (because really, once the book's in print, it doesn't cost any extra to make an ebook). I think it's mainly inertia and fear of piracy eating into sales (despite the data from all those Creative Commons published authors showing that giving their books away actually INcreases traditional sales), DRM, etc.

    There are lots of book review sites around, as another poster mentioned. My personal favourite is LibraryThing. As for authors pushing their books on talkshows... Oprah does that. People would kill to get into Oprah's book club. It's not exactly viable for most authors. Local radio stations is more realistic but at the same time, has a fairly minimal impact.
  15. mrgreen4242 macrumors 601


    Feb 10, 2004
    They should start bundling a data CD/DVD containing the audiobook version with hardcover copies of books. It would justify the price of hardcovers, which is pretty high imo, and spread the cost of the audio edition over a much large buyer pool. It would also help keep the more expensive/profitable hardcovers popular after the cheaper mass market paperbacks come out.

    On a related note, the Gutenberg Project now has an affiliate group who is doing audio recordings of public domain books, read by volunteers and in the public domain. Can't recall the name off hand... it's linked from the Gutenberg Project homepage though. Really a great service.
  16. DukeofAnkh macrumors regular

    Oct 5, 2007
    While noble, the Gutenberg audiobooks aren't exactly brilliant quality, in my experience. I listened to Alice in Wonderland and it was somewhat cringeworthy, though mercifully it was only two and a half hours long or something. Call me spoilt, but after listening to many podcasts (also free) with better production values, I was disappointed. Better than nothing if you're desperate, but fortunately, there's a lot of podcasted fiction out there to keep me going.

    With putting audiobooks in the hardcovers, it's a nice idea, but I don't think the publishers will do it unless they raise the price of hardcovers to cover it. And quite frankly, would that many people buying a hardcover want the audio book as well? As I already mentioned, I'd rather have the ebook bundled. Anyway, while hardcovers may seem expensive, publishers don't exactly have a huge profit margin. Many books run at a loss and end up having their production costs covered by other bestsellers. Like it or not, audiobooks DO cost money to produce (unlike ebooks). I'm not saying it wouldn't be nice for them to be cheaper or bundled (or have the option to get it bundled with a discount maybe), I just don't think it's going to happen very soon.

    (Also, if you have the print book and the audiobook, wouldn't it be super hard to read some, then listen to some on the train and find your spot again? I mean, who always puts down a book at the end of a chapter every time?)

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